Being fat dominates so many areas of your life—far beyond the obvious of how you look.
I know because until recently I was always fat. OK, obese. I’m 42.
I began to suffer little indignities starting as a child in Miami Beach. I was always last to be picked for a team in phys ed because no one wanted the fat girl on their team. They still don’t.
As a teenager, my concern about the way I looked took over my social schedule. I turned down invitations to pool parties because there was no way I’d wear a bathing suit in front of other kids.
As an adult, my negative body image meant I routinely steered clear of dinner parties and professional events—traditional ways people meet and develop friendships. No way I’d be the only woman in pants while others strutted in tight dresses. I can’t help but think of all the potential connections I missed. All because of my weight.
I got married in a blue suit because I would have looked absurd in a white gown. No one asked why I wasn’t wearing a wedding dress. They knew.
But it wasn’t always about petty vanity. I stayed away from doctors and didn’t have a single medical checkup for more than a decade after I gave birth to twins. I cringed at the thought of getting the inevitable lecture about my weight. Had something been wrong with me physically, I wouldn’t have known. For years, I never had a regular period. This all stemmed from my inability—my refusal—to do anything about my weight.
The Chat changed everything.
It happened 18 months ago when a woman named Barbara Fedida told me my clothes didn’t do me justice and that she wanted to send me to a stylist.
Barbara is the highest-ranking woman executive at ABC News and I am an on-air contributor for Good Morning America.
She never used the words “fat, diet or obesity” but her message was clear: I needed to lose weight. Let’s face it: on TV looks matter.
In my own way, I took her words to mean “lose weight or lose your job,” even though she didn’t come close to making that threat and has assured me to this day that my role was never in jeopardy.
Barbara changed my life. I think she may have actually saved my life. I know she rescued me from continuing on an unhealthy path both mentally and physically and for that I will be forever grateful to her.
That’s why I dedicated The Shift, my new book about how I lost 62 pounds in one year, to Barbara. She told me what I needed to hear and I was ready to listen. In a nutshell, what I came to learn was that what I put in my head is much more powerful than what I put in my mouth.
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I’m on a mission to share that message and more with others who have battled weight for years and are finally ready to make The Shift and do something about it once and for all. If I can do it, anyone can.
I’ve always thought that companies should treat employees as people, to view them far more than worker bees. To care about their families and their lives. To invest in their health. In this tough, fast-paced economy, that personal concern has fallen by the wayside in many respects. We’re too busy to care—and that’s a problem.
From the White House to the boardroom, there’s obvious concern about obesity and its links to rising health costs, shorter life spans, lost productivity and absenteeism. Yet simply urging everyone to exercise more, eat right and smoke and drink less isn’t cutting it because Americans are fatter than ever.
It’s time for employers and colleagues to talk frankly about health and weight to peers to figure out a solution—together.
Thanks to that difficult chat, I’ll never again neglect my health.
I appreciate that Barbara cared enough about me, my appearance and my health to engage me with dignity and respect, not shame and embarrassment. All of us can be that person to someone else—and hopefully the recipient of that message will be as open to shifting as I was.
Tory Johnson is the author of The Shift: How I Finally Lost Weight and Discovered a Happier Life. Connect with her at www.shiftwithtory.com or on Twitter @ToryJohnson.com.